An Open Letter To Indie Authors

Posted on 07/22/2012 in Discussion / 27 Comments

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I watched the drama llama rear its ugly head again last night in the latest indie author/book blogger drama on author Carroll Bryant’s Goodreads page.  And I just had nothing to say right then.  It made me sad, even more so as he quickly back-pedaled and deleted every comment, and eventually his blog post.  He’s since posted an explanation (and The List on his personal blog), but I am not linking to it, because that’s not the purpose of this post.

I want to express why book bloggers blog.  And how hard it can sometimes be.



I read for the sheer enjoyment of it.  I’ve always loved to read.  You love to write, but I bet you also love to read.  We have that in common, I think.  You work extremely hard on your books; hours, days, months…. sometimes years, before the day finally comes that you can push it out into the world with that final labored breath and mark it “done.”

But you know it’s not done.  So do I.  Because as indie authors, you also have the job of marketing your baby to the general public, which includes this weird “new” world of book bloggers.

Who are we?  What do we mean to you?

I can tell you what we are not:  we are not a media outlet whom you can take advantage.  We are not here for YOU.  We are here for US.  We blog about books to share our love of reading and to spread that love amongst each other.  Promoting you is purely a side benefit you reap – and us, too, if we enjoyed your book.  I know it’s irritating that you sent your book to someone months ago, and they still haven’t reviewed it.  I have dozens in my to-be-read pile that fit this bill and I feel the weight on my shoulders a little every day.  But I’m a mood reader.  That is to say, I read based on how I’m feeling at a given moment.  I would rather read your book months  – years – later, if it means I’ll enjoy it more and be able to give you a better review.

The idea that bloggers don’t pay for books is hogwash.  I don’t think you realize how much work goes into one review of a single book.  If you sent me your book today (and let’s assume it’s the average 80,000 words), it would take me roughly 247 minutes to read it, in total read time.  I’m a faster-than-average reader, at 324 words per minute (don’t ask, I took a test a while back), but that’s not speed-reading.  That is still over four hours invested in to your book.  So far.

Then I have to sit down and write the review, which can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on the content of your book.  After I’ve written your review, I still need to set it up on my blog, format it, find all of my affiliate purchase links (that literally earn me maybe a penny every one-hundred clicks), find your social media sites, the book synopsis and link everything up accordingly.  After all is said and done, I’ve invested approximately seven hours into your one book.  If your book was 9.99 at the Agency pricing, I earned $1.43 per hour.  If your book was $0.99 (as are many indie ebooks), I earned $0.14 per hour.   Reflect on that for a minute.  Fourteen cents an hour.  That’s how much you essentially paid me to market your book.

I don’t know a single blogger that takes a book with the intention of never reviewing it.  I do know that my policy states a review is never guaranteed, so basically, “gift me a book at your own risk.”  This isn’t necessarily a “save my rear” kind of thing (although it sort of is), but you must understand that we don’t just receive books from you; in the last 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve received seven review books in the mail from publishers.  If you count the ebooks, it’s probably closer to double that.  Many of these were unsolicited from publishers, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read them.  And I have an obligation to keep the publishers happy, too.  And I want to keep them happy; they publish some of my hands-down favorite authors!   And then it’s not as if these are the only books I am getting; I also buy books I want that I didn’t get for review.  The book blogging world is its own ecosystem.  We know each other, we read each other’s opinions and we buy books based off of these opinions (or not, in some cases).  It’s a misconception that bloggers don’t pay for books.  We might spend more money on books than the average book consumer, although this is of course just an assumption, based on my own personal experiences.  However I can tell you that I spend much more on books than I ever did before, simply because I read book reviews, find out about new releases and I get to talk to authors and publishers.  Yes, I’m getting free books, but I’m buying them, too.

It sucks sending your book to a blogger and then waiting and waiting for a review.  Like I said, I have dozens in my pile that I just haven’t gotten to, for one reason or another.  I have every intention of reading them, but other books and, well, life get in the way.  We’re not just bloggers; we’re career professionals, athletes, parents, siblings, students, lovers, pet owners…we are life-livers.  Sometimes I only have one hour a day to dedicate to my blog and reading.   Some days I can’t do anything with it at all.  But that’s why we aren’t professional reviewers. We’re doing this because of the love of reading, not because we have to.   We’re only book bloggers.  And we love to read books.

If you can remember that when corresponding with us, when talking about us, when making lists and websites of us, it will do you a world of good.  If you feel like you’ve been attacked by a blogger, yes, I expect you to walk away and take the high road.  You are the professional here, not us.  That doesn’t excuse us from bad behavior, but it does mean you shouldn’t act as such in return.  Nothing good comes from arguing on the internet, especially when your livelihood is at stake.  If you can remember that, dear author, things will be great.


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Jennifer is a bona fide book nerd. She thinks "bookworm" sounds gross and secretly gains pleasure at the pained looks her husband often shoots at her personal library. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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27 responses to “An Open Letter To Indie Authors

  1. Thank you Jennifer, for putting all of my feelings so eloquently into words. I love running my blog, but some days it can be incredibly overwhelming. I hate saying no, but getting 5-7 author requests per week necessitates me doing just that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to read, work, take care of 3 kids, 2 dogs, a husband, a house, not to mention the volunteer work I do with the various activities my kids are involved in, and well, just breathing. I try to read as much as possible, but I never want it to feel like work and when it starts to feel like that, I need to take a break. Thank you again for such a great post!
    Amie@Mom Reads My Books’s latest thoughts >> Feature and Follow Friday #40

  2. Perfectly put, they seem to forget WHY we’re here “the freebies are the perks, the ONLY, perk we get from our labor of love. If book blogging is a profession, I’d say we’re professional fangirls and fanboys. Some reviewers do need work on writing up constructive reviews but bottomline is not everyone likes the same thing. So some will gush about their work and some will think its trash but that’s how it is in real life whether it’s a book, food or people in general. These authors going berserk needs a reality check, IF they get famous and NYT publish a bad review, will they bomb NYT HQ? Run a smear campaign? For them to be successful writers their work needs to MATTER and they need a FOLLOWING otherwise they’d rather write fanfic.
    Braine’s latest thoughts >> Early Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

  3. Darkeva

    Hi there, I saw the link to this post in my Twitter feed and knew I had to read it–thank you for writing this post! I cannot tell you how sick I am of hearing authors who launch accusations at book bloggers and don’t stop to consider all the work we put in to promoting authors and on top of that, doing something for free because we love it, not because we have to. Wonderful post, and I enjoyed reading it! DarkEva
    Darkeva’s latest thoughts >> Darkeva’s Dark Discoveries Vol. 5

    • Hi DarkEva, I definitely don’t want the hard work we do – for cheap, since we get paid in books, and that’s technically a barter system, really – to go unnoticed. I want authors like Carroll Bryant to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and pay attention to all the effort it takes to run a review blog. It’s a lot of work! Not only are they marketing their book, we’re marketing our blog! It’s really the same game and we should be helping each other, but that’s hard to do when there are people like him who scare readers away from other indies. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Really great post Jenn. You did a great job laying out the blogger side of things without stepping into the drama and putting more fuel on the fire. I’m sad to say Caroll has probably put a lot of bloggers off of indie authors. I’m rethinking my policy myself. I sure as hell don’t want to be one of the bloggers one day involved in a shit storm. It sucks so bad all the way around. :/

    • He probably did scare a few people off. He’s removed his posts now and just has up some half-snarky “I was still in the right” post about why he acted the way he did, but the damage is done. I actually wonder if he was just fame-whoring, but who knows.

    • Me too. I just began sorting on my GR shelves what I received from publishers/authors and what I’ve purchased. I’m interested in my yearly book spending habits now, especially since I have 2 e-readers and an iPad. Instant gratification. Don’t piss off the people who have instant gratification, right?!

      • I love that people are talking about acceptable and not acceptable behavior and working on coming up with standards, but I hate that the people who behave badly are getting so much attention. I have met nothing but super nice and super professional bloggers AND authors and I wish we spent as much time talking about everything that works well and all the amazing people out there as we do talking about the negative elements. Personally, I only know one author who I thought was behaving kind of badly and when I called her on it, she turned on me, which just proves (IMHO) it’s not a blogger vs. author thing but just a not-nice vs. nice people thing. Your point about money made me laugh though – I’m an author. My book has taken 3 years to be released for sale from the point when I started writing it. A “successful” book is one that sells 10,000 copies in one year. Authors earn about $1 per book sale, so that would be $10,000 for 3 years worth of work, which comes out to $0.38 per hour (check my math – it’s not my strong suit…damnit it, Jim! I’m a novelist not a mathematician!). Whoohoo! I earn about 2.5x what a blogger makes. YES! Mama is bringing home the bacon! 🙂
        Terri Bruce’s latest thoughts >> The World of Hereafter

  5. Kelly (Radiant Shadows)

    I really love how you put this into perspective. The average book blogger is “making” less than $2/hr in exchange for a “free” book. I never thought about it like that before! I love that this post was able to eloquently discuss a touchy subject without commenting on all the drama as of late – great post Jennifer!
    Kelly (Radiant Shadows)’s latest thoughts >> Sneak Peek: Iron’s Prophecy

  6. I see both sides. I know it is frustrating, when you’re trying to promote a book on a zero budget, to have someone agree to review your book and then, over a year later, never see it reviewed. It’s frustrating because, if you pay $100 and send out 20 copies and 2 people review it, you probably won’t make back the $100 off those reviews. That said, it’s the risk you have to take. There is no excuse for an ungracious author sabotaging their own image because they can’t control their frustration. If you want to be seen as an adult (and who wants to buy a book written by a petulant child?) you have to act like an adult and have some grace. Bloggers have to-do lists just like writers. I’m glad you broke this down.
    Amy Leigh Strickland’s latest thoughts >> Book Review: Exiled

    • I can see the other side, too. I received a ebook from an author months and months ago. He only gave it to me because I expressed how excited I was about it after reading the synopsis and joked that he should rig the giveaway so I would win on GR. He actually did give me a copy, I guess since he realized I review, but I haven’t even gotten around to it yet. I WANT to read it, but I’m swimming in books. I’m also afraid I won’t like it (that’s always my fear when I’m given a book straight from the author), because then he’ll have graciously given me his book and I’m going to write a review that I didn’t like it and feel like a chump. *kicks self* It’s the nature of the beast.

  7. Thank you for this post! I really wish I could come up with something more profound to say, but maybe simple gratitude is profound in its own way. Anyway, as a reader who blogs for personal reasons (bet that describes 97% of book bloggers), your perspective here is a relief to read (I’m not the only one!). Thanks!
    Kelly @ Reading with Analysis’s latest thoughts >> Review – The Theory of Attraction

  8. This is incredible. Seriously, thank you! You laid everything out in such an eloquent, perfect way. It was clear, concise, rational and impartial- a true masterpiece. I have read it twice already and there is a whole lot of head bobbing and “yep-ing” on my part. YOu stayed out of all the drama but still more than made your point. This is one of the best thought out and executed posts I have ever seen. I love it…and you for posting it!! Thank you
    Michelle@Book Briefs’s latest thoughts >> {Review+G!veaway} Frost by Kate Avery Ellison

  9. Michelle Long

    I love this post. Everything you’ve written down is logical and you have explained so well exactly how much effort it takes to run a book blog. I don’t think some people realize that it takes a lot of time to write a good review. And I also love that you used the phrase “drama llama”. P.S. I think I read at 316 words a minute or something like that so you beat me there! I find this sad because according to Staples that’s slower than the average 11th grader.

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